Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
It was alternative journalists, including those working for Political Research Associates and People for the American Way, that first alerted the mainstream media to the offensive caricatures on the boxes with online posts from the conference.
While reviewing the caricatures, this post will also analyze the "humorous" text on the waffle box, and compare it to the content of conference speakers at the Values Voter Summit. Was the Obama Waffle box an anomaly in this Christian Right event?
Click down, view the images, and judge for yourself.
The booth was open for business around noon on Saturday when the story broke. Boxes of Obama Waffles for selling for $10, and business was brisk.
Here are photos of two of the advertising panels at the booth. It was hard not to see the stereotyping.:
Is there a White racist subtext woven into the history of the Christian Right? While many Christian Right leaders have made efforts to involve Black pastors and stressed racial reconcilliation, there is little talk of racial justice that would require institutional changes in America.
The scholar of religion Randall Balmer revealed in his recent book that the energy to build the Christian Right in the late 1970s, often attributed to anti-abortion sentiments, was actually triggered by fears that segregated White Christian private schools would have their tax exempt status revoked by Jimmy Carter's Internal Revenue Service. Read more here
Other racist stereotypes about Blacks were featured on the Obama Waffles box; the
Rev. Jeremiah Wright made an appearance on the side:
The caricature of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright includes “Popular Sayings: ‘God***America’ and “Made in the US of KKA”
There is a side panel recipe for “Barry’s Bling Bling Waffle Ring” that features a “Recipe Rap” that begins with “Yo, B-rock here droppin’ waffle knowledge” with the rest of the ditty written in such an irritating White caricature of Black rap that even a White 1920s vaudeville blackface crooner would be embarrassed.
The Obama Waffles box also includes stereotypes (reflecting fears) about Mexicans...
Under the caricature of Obama as a Mexican, there is a recipe card for “Open Border Fiesta Waffles.” The recipe card depicts a perforated border between the U.S.A. and Mexico. The text under this says the “greatest danger of all is to allow walls to divide us.”
At the Values Voter Summit there was a breakout session on “The Double Threat To Our National Security: Illegal Immigration,” featuring Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a group calling for a high security border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.
The workshop pulsated with fears that immigration by Mexicans was bringing in waves of crime and disease—and perhaps a few terrorists.
The recipe card on the Obama Waffles box including ingredients such as goats milk and jalepeno peppers, and advises as a “Tip: While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language.” The “Recommended Serving” is “4 or more illegal aliens.”
Conference lead-off speaker Lou Dobbs, a vociferous anti-immigrant polemicist, posed for a picture at the booth while holding a box of Obama Waffles. He is reported to have said "My wife will love this," or something similar. Hard to confirm since the original photo and quote have vanished from the Internet.
There also were stereotypes (reflecting fears) about Muslims...
The box top features Obama with stereotypic Muslim headgear and the admonition: “Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles.”
At the Values Voter Summit there was a breakout session on “The Double Threat To Our National Security: Radical Islam,” featuring Frank Gaffney, President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. According to Right Web:
Gaffney says that today's main threat to peace and security is "Islamofascism," which is a terms he says "makes clear that the war is about much more than Iraq and Afghanistan" and includes those countries—namely, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and South Africa—which provide direct or indirect support for the Islamofascists "in their death struggle with us" (Jim Lobe, "Neo-Con Superhawk Earns His Wings on Port Flap," February 26, 2006). Read more here
Gaffney’s presentation at the Values Voter Summit echoed these xenophobic assertions.
The side panel recipe for "Barack’s Belgium Beauties" suggests that “Environmentally conscious consumers should pay two ozone-offset carbon credits to Al Gore’s GreenWorld Fund. On the bottom of the box, is a “Clip&Save” coupon for “8 Al Gore Green Perks.”
At the Values Voter Summit, there were suggestions that global warming was an over-rated concern, if not a liberal hoax.
Throughout the conference, speakers brought up criticisms of Barack Obama similar or even identical to the text on the Obama Waffles box, ridiculing Obama for talking about being a "citizen of the world," or mispeaking about "57 states." Stopping abortion was a central issue at the conference, and the box text, written as if by Barack Obama, reads "When Michelle and I mix up a batch for our family, we only use eggs gently coaxed from their mothers to assure the hen her freedom of choice."
Both John Kerry and Michelle Obama had a role to play
The mainstream media missed the real story of the Obama Waffles...that the text on the box was offensive, but so was the content of the Values Voters Summit itself.
Election year disclaimer: This post reflects my personal views, not the views of my employers, and is posted on my own time.
For the economic conservatives and right-wing libertarians, Obama is leading America down the slippery slope towards socialism, collectivism, and tyranny, just like FDR.
For the Christian Right, Obama is creating the type of Big Government that is a sign of the collectivist One World Government forged by the antichrist in the End Times.
Both sectors see labor unions as bad for America.
Together, these two sectors have launched a campaign against socialism and Satan--which means stopping the Obama Administration from making changes in the economic system to benefit the majority of Americans.
Economic conservatives and right-wing libertarians
To supporters of rigid Laissez Faire unregulated capitalism, Big Government and collectivism are threats to the very survival of the U.S. economy. This is tied to the idea of “rugged individualism” which is a “core American cultural value”, that is “especially significant in the American psyche”.1
Darwinism spawned Social Darwinism, which spawned Economic Darwinism, which takes the idea of the survival of the fittest in nature and imposes it on economic systems by arguing that fierce and unregulated competition builds individual character and national economic health.2 While Social Darwinism is “a secularist philosophy”, it is influenced by “a kind of naturalistic Calvinism,” writes Hofstadter. Calvinism strongly influenced the early American outlook.3 In this form of Calvinism, according to Hofstadter, “man’s relation to nature is as hard and demanding as man’s relationship to God under the Calvinistic system”.4 In some sectors of the Christian Right in the United States, there has been a return to early Calvinist doctrine.
The relationship between libertarian Laissez Faire Capitalism and Calvinist forms of Protestantism was explored by Weber in his classic book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Popular tracts from the early Twentieth Century still circulate in the United States warning that the federal income tax is theft and that the Federal Reserve banking system is a corrupt plan to loot the economy hatched by secretive elites on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia. These ideas continue to be repackaged by right-wing groups. In the 1960s and the 1970s these claims appeared as conspiracy theories peddled by the John Birch Society and the Liberty Lobby.
When President Roosevelt was elected President in 1933 he increased the size and role of the federal government significantly. Libertarian and Laissez Faire ideologues were outraged. To counter this new role for “Big Government”, associations of manufacturers and corporate executives spent millions of dollars to distribute “educational” materials warning that a bloated federal government was the road to collectivism, communism, and tyranny. Economic libertarianism was a bedrock assumption of the American political economy up until the Franklin Roosevelt Administration of 1933 to 1945. Right-wing ideologues still claim that Roosevelt sent the country marching down the road to socialism.
After World War Two, conservative activists led by William F. Buckley, Jr. launched a campaign to rollback the size of the federal government. This became a major rhetorical goal of the Reagan Administration in the 1980s.The Christian Right
Christian Right leader Tim LaHaye, for example, claims it was the Satan himself who engineered the “crafty election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president for twelve years” This was part of a secret conspiracy to turn the “American constitution upside down,” in order to “use our freedoms to promote pornography, homosexuality, immorality, and a host of evils characteristic of the last days,” states LaHaye, in an open reference to the apocalyptic End Times prophesied in Revelation. 9 In another article, LaHaye also believes that the “Anti-Christ philosophy already controls America and Europe.”
LaHaye asserts that: “All thinking people in America realize an anti-Christian, anti-moral, and anti-American philosophy permeates this country and the world.”11 The subversive conspirators include godless secular humanists and others who secretly manipulate the news media, the entertainment industry, the universities, and even the court system. These evil forces have turned the “American constitution upside down,” warns LaHaye.12 “I have no question the devil is behind what the apostle Paul called ‘the wisdom (philosophy) of this world’ and controls many of our courts and other areas of influence,” LaHaye writes.13
According to LaHaye, the liberal, secular humanist, antichrist conspiracy:
"...dominates the public school system from kindergarten through graduate school. It controls the media from the daily print press to popular magazines (from porno to mainline), the six major TV networks, most of all cable TV; it dominates the entertainment industry, and it elects a predominance of liberals to both parties in our national government.
"This alien philosophy does not come from the Bible, but is antithetical to it. In this country it flies under the banner of “liberalism,” but in reality it is atheistic socialism at best and Marxism at worst.
"We are the only nation that can halt the socialist Marxist enthronement of the UN as THE GLOBAL GOVERNMENT of the world, but it will require a conservative administration and Supreme Court committed to judicially interpreting our nation’s laws that were originally based on moral Biblical principles."14
Read more about the Right-Wing attacks on the Obama Administration and labor unions at: PublicEye.org - Economic Justice
1 Hirschman (E.C.) “Men, Dogs, Guns, and Cars: The Semiotics of Rugged Individualism”, Journal of Advertising, Vol. 32 No. 1, 2003, p. 9-22. See also Hsu (F.L.K.), Rugged Individualism Reconsidered: Essays in Psychological Anthropology, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1988;.
2 Hofstadter (R.), Social Darwinism in American Thought , reprint edition, Boston: Beacon Press,  1992; Bannister (R.), Social Darwinism: Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1979; Degler (C.), In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991.
3 Zakai (A.), Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992; Hatch (N.O.), The Democratization of American Christianity, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989.
4 Hofstadter (R.), Social Darwinism, op. cit. , p. 10.
5 Weber (M.), The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Parsons (T.), reprint, New York, Routledge,  1999.
6 Mintz, (F.P.) op. cit.
7 Hayek (F.) (éd.), Collectivist Economic Planning: Critical Studies on the Possibilities of Socialism, London, Routledge, 1935; ———, The Road to Serfdom, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1944; Flynn (J.), As We Go Marching, Garden City, NY, Doubleday/Doran, 1944; Von Mises (L.), Omnipotent Government, the Rise of the Total State and Total War, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1944; ———, Planned Chaos, Irvington-on-Hudson, NY, Foundation for Economic Education, 1947; ———, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, Princeton, Van Nostrand, 1956; Sennholz (H.F.), “The Great Depression”, The Freeman, April 1975, p. 212-213; quoted in Reed (L.W.), “Great Myths of the Great Depression: Phase IV: The Wagner Act”, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, retrieved 26 November 2007, online here .
8 This section is in part drawn from Berlet (C.), “The new political right in the United States: Reaction, rollback, and resentment”, in Thompson (M.) (éd.), Confronting the new conservatism: The rise of the right in America, NYU Press, New York, 2007.
9 LaHaye, (T.) “119 Million American Evangelicals in these Last Days?” Pre-Trib Perspectives, Vol. 8, No. 1, (April 2003), pp. 1-3, quote from p. 2.
10 LaHaye, (T.), “Anti-Christ philosophy already controls America and Europe,” Pre-Trib Perspectives, (September 1999), http://www.timlahaye.com/about_ministry/pdf/sept.tim.pdf, (accessed July 4, 2006).
12 LaHaye, “119 Million American Evangelicals in these Last Days?” p. 2.
14 LaHaye, “Anti-Christ philosophy already controls America and Europe.”